I was going to write about the greatest songs from great scenes in movies. However, there are lots of movies circulating about in existence…like more than I can count. Given that there’s about 15-20 songs in a good movie, and 15-20*(more than I can count) = way too many options, I decided to look at just one movie.
That movie is of course The Sir Honorable Majesty Servant of God Cameron Crowe’s 2000 masterpiece, Almost Famous. It is perhaps the greatest rock ‘n’ roll film of all time. Actually, I take back that “perhaps.” It just is. (I am very passionate about this particular piece of cinema). The only thing I love more than this movie is its soundtrack. Each song has a deep philosophical meaning (or I am just delusional and have attached one to each) and if you don’t know what that is then you are merely a serf in comparison to my status of nobility. However, if you would like to join me atop this feudal pyramid we call Halftime, then read on. If you enjoy being bound to the land, stop reading now and return to your crops.
1. “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” by Ross Bagdasarian Sr.
I don’t actually recommend anyone listen to this song unless they want a migraine for 48 hours. You could instead just listen to a 33 on the 45 rotations per minute. I do, however, want to note that if you can open your movie with Alvin and the Chipmunks and still somehow manage to get an 89% on Rotten Tomatoes, then you deserve an Oscar. Also fun fact: Jason Lee, who plays the lead singer in Almost Famous, later went on to star in the 2007 movie adaptation of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Foreshadowing much?
2. “America” by Simon & Garfunkel
“This song explains why I’m leaving home to become a stewardess,” blurts out Zooey Deschanel’s character, Anita. Honestly, I couldn’t have said it better myself. This song is one of those sweet serenades that does the impossible trick of making one feel nostalgia for a period you’ve never experienced. That’s how you’ll feel when you listen to this song. You are going to want to travel 1960s America in a bus with no direction and no cigarettes. Either that or you’re going to want to become a stewardess.
3. “Feel Flows” by The Beach Boys
I had never heard of this song until this movie. That is because I do not much care for the Beach Boys. Regardless, this song is an absolute bop. The reverse echo used on the vocals in this recording paired with the trippy synthesizer provides an anxiety-inducing, yet somehow relaxing feeling across the body. Just listen. I don’t know. Anyways, the song is used when our protagonist, William Miller (Patrick Fugit), meets the groupie Penny Lane (Kate Hudson). The scene truly makes me feel a flow of emotion as I invest in the love story of these two characters.
4. “River” by Joni Mitchell
The aforementioned scene is rudely interrupted by the fictional band Stillwater’s guitarist Russell Hammond, played by Billy Crudup. Despite the audience’s initial desire for William and Penny to end up together, Joni Mitchell makes us feel otherwise. Her soft voice invites us to tear up as we witness a true connection on screen between Penny and Russell. Sorry kids, but playing the guitar will always be sexier than whatever the heck you do.
5. “Small Time Blues” by Pete Droge
Perhaps the best, but definitely the most unknown song on this soundtrack is “Small Time Blues.” I’ve never heard of it outside this movie and I doubt anyone else has unless they’re a “biiiiggg folk guy.” A scene depicting a young Jay Baruchel having a panic attack over meeting the members of Led Zeppelin is cut out when William walks by an open door in the famed “Riot House.” Pete Droge and Elaine Summers, the writer and performer of the song, are cast into the movie as “Hyatt Singers,” just jamming on the acoustic guitar for all to hear in the way that people did in the ‘70s. The scene is a tribute to a real-life event that occurred when Cameron Crowe met Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. With regard to the actual song, it is the hidden gem of this movie. It is soft, simple, and sweet. It again transports the listener back to a simpler time that existed probably before they were born.
6. “Something in the Air” by Thunderclap Newman
This song is also played in the Riot House on an acoustic guitar, but this time it’s sung by a group of drunk rock stars, groupies, and roadies. There are only a few verses sung but it’s enough to make you feel happy. Listen to the song in its entirety and I guarantee you will want to start up your very own revolution for absolutely no reason.
7. “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John and Bernie Taupin
This is by far the most famous scene in the film. I’m sure many of you know it without having ever heard of this movie. No amount of film or music analysis can do this scene justice so just watch it. Amazing composers, phenomenal song, best scene in movie history. If I ever find myself on a tour bus post-jumping-off-roof-acid-trip, I’m throwing on this jam to feel better. It truly is a magical scene.
8. “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” by Elton John and Bernie Taupin
While much less known than the previous song, this tune is definitely an Elton must-listen. It’s more somber, but it’s truly beautiful. I can’t listen to this song without seeing William running through New York City taxi cabs, peering into the windows for Penny Lane. The melody alone is irresistible, but hearing it in this movie scene? Fuggedaboutit!
9. “Tangerine” by Led Zeppelin
“To begin with, everything,” utters Russell at the end of the movie. The scene between William and his guitar hero is truly the best way to end this movie. Segueing it right into a closing montage accompanied by Led Zeppelin’s “Tangerine” is just the cherry on top. This song gets me in the feels every listen. It begins soft and depressing, but quickly kicks it into fourth gear. The juxtaposition of soft and hard paired with Plant’s signature vocals is just so unbelievably sexy.
Image Credits: Jacob Bilich